Obi-Wan Kenobi

What Can Obi-Wan Kenobi Teach You About Networks?

Obi-Wan KenobiAs a long-time SciFi fanatic, I was really impatient to see Star Wars when it first came out in 1977. So, while on leave from the army for my sister’s wedding, I almost literally jumped off the plane and rushed to see the movie. However, 5 or 6 weeks later when friends dragged me to see it a second time, the bloom was off,  and when I had to see it a third time the following week with another set of friends… let’s just say The Force was no longer with me.

Fast-forward a few decades,  and I find myself hoping that J.J. Abrams can resurrect a franchise that started deteriorating after the second film, and pretty much hit rock bottom with the final three films, despite all the money it made George Lucas. But what does all this have to do with wide area networks? While doing some research on WAN-related topics Google offered me an Obi Wan Kenobi item and it struck me: Obi’s middle name is Wan, and who better to offer some words of wisdom about the state of the network market than THE Jedi Master himself:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I sense a trap.”
Anakin Skywalker: “Next move?”
Obi-Wan Kenobi: [smiling] “Spring the trap.”

While it’s still early days for SDN, many believe it will set them free from their proprietary prison and soaring network demands, but there are alternatives available now, including 10, 40, and 100GbE ports. Shipments of higher-speed ports shot up 62% in 2012, and 10G+ port revenue is expected to double by 2017, to over $42 billion. If that’s not enough, and SDN isn’t in your near future, then you might want to consider 400GbE, although the standard isn’t expected to be finalized until 2016.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Your clones are very impressive. You must be very proud.”

This is an obvious reference to the hyperscale Internet giants — eBay, Google, Amazon and Facebook — who spearheaded the development of SDN and the use of low-cost clones to replace proprietary switches and servers. FBR Capital Markets sees SDN adoption driving sales of commodity, low-margin switches at the expense of Cisco/Juniper’s conventional switch/routers, with a 40% drop in switch/router ports deployed by service providers/large enterprises in the next 18-36 months.

[Obi-Wan regains consciousness while hanging precariously inside an elevator shaft underneath Anakin]
Anakin Skywalker: “Easy! We’re in a bit of a situation.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Did I miss something?

It’s not been easy to miss the Big Data Hoopla, and it will become even harder, with Big Data technology and services expected to grow at a 31.7% compound annual growth rate, around 7X the rate of the overall IT market, with revenues reaching $23.8 billion in 2016. In fact, some analysts believe that the market will be much bigger, when you add in analytics, SaaS applications and other related products.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?”

Clearly Obi WAN is talking about the growing adoption of virtual appliances and the threat to more expensive, complex and rigid physical appliances. However, while virtual offerings will continue to outpace growth in the physical appliance market, rumors of their death are still greatly exaggerated.

May the Force be with you.

Image credit: ph0enix280 (flickr) – CC-BY-2.0